Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 12: sad to leave, but happy to go

Today was our last official day in Ireland since tomorrow is just travelling. We had to be down at breakfast at 7:15 and on the bus by 8. We left Killarney and went on our way to Adare and the Cliffs of Moher, passing though Limerick on the way.

We stopped at Adare first. It claims to be the cutest town in Ireland. It was a good photo opportunity, but as of Tuesday, we weren't allowed to go see the castle. I was a little disappointed because that would have been really cool, but I knew what was coming would be amazing.

The Cliffs of Moher are absolutely the most breathtaking place I've ever been in my life. We were given two hours to explore, take pictures, maybe grab lunch, and just soak in the view. I took so many pictures that probably all look the same, but I thought maybe one of them would do the cliffs a tiny bit of justice. Meagan, Maggie, and myself just sat in quiet for a while and stared out at the ocean. I felt as if time was standing still.

We checked in at our hotel in Limerick and had about an hour to relax. We then headed off for our medieval dinner at Bunratty Castle! It was so much fun. It was in an actual castle, and the night played out like a real dinner would. We first went into a room with fiddle and harp players and were offered a glass of mead. We then went down into banquet hall for dinner, which was four courses. The entertainment was singing and music. Afterwards, we went downstairs to the "lower chambers" for coffee and tea. A bagpiper was playing outside. What a perfect ending to a perfect night.

On the bus ride home, Joe led a sing along of Irish songs since he forgot his Beatles CD. I can't complain, though. This was way more fun. We also had our last meeting tonight. We went around the room and all talked about our favorite moment of the trip. It was really sad, but really awesome at the same time.

So here we are. The last night, the last hotel, the last memories of the Emerald Isle. It went by so fast, but even yesterday seems years ago. It's sad that this trip and this chapter of my life are over. But I know what's waiting for me at home, the three most important things in my life: my family, my boyfriend, and my dogs. In the words of Meagan Stroud, I'm sad to leave, but happy to go.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 11: Free day in Killarney

Today is almost an entirely free day in Killarney. I woke up around 9 and got in the shower. Me and the girls went down to the hotel restaurant to get breakfast after we were all ready. Afterwards we headed out to themain street.

We did a lot of shopping today! I actually bought some things for myself today which was exciting. I spent a lot of money again though. That's okay, I'm in Ireland and I'm going to spoil myself! We ran into Frankie, Brittany, Zach, and Kristen while shopping. So we grabbed sandwiches to go and had kunch in the park with them. We then spent most of what was left of our free time taking rediculous photos in the park.

At 4:30 we had a lecture with Declan Malone, editor of the Kerryman, a weekly newspaper. He was really interesting to listen to. He talked a lot about the strict libel laws and Ireland as well as the amount of advertising the paper uses. He said its about a 60-40 ration of news to ads, but some weeks may have more because they never turn away advertisements.

In about a half hour I'm meeting everyone in the lobby to go eat dinner somewhere. I'll come back afterwards to finish re-packing and get ready to go. We have to be down in the lobby for breakfast at 7:15 tomorrow morning and on the bus by 8. Tomorrow we journey to the cliffs of Moher.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 10: Day Tripper

So today we headed out once again on another leg of our journey. We left the hotel in Cobh about 9 am and set course for the Ring of Kerry. The views were breathtaking! We stopped at the Kerry Bog Museum a few hours into our trip. It was a few buildings set up and preserved as they would have look in the 1800s. It was a really neat thing to see.

We also saw a sheep dog demonstration today. It was awesome. The guy showing us was only using two dogs for the show, but said he usually has four that he uses with the herd and two that he is training. Each dog can understand exactly what the trainer is commanding with a set of whistles. Each dog also has its own set of whistles so he can direct them individually. It was so amazing to me how well the dogs knew what to do.

After lunch at a little cafe along the way, we started back towards Killarney. It really should have only been about a two hour trip but we stopped at a bunch of lookout spots along the way to take pictures. It would have been much better if it didn't pour the whole day. The bus driver also put in a Beatles CD for the way back.

After settling into the hotel, we went to dinner just down the street at a little pub/restaurant. After we ate an Irish and played for a couple of hours. It was really fun to watch. Tomorrow we have a free morning and a free evening. The only planned activity is a lecture at 4:30. Who knows what tomorrow has in store!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 9: Castles and Radios

This morning started with breakfast in the restaurant of the hotel we are staying in. We got on the bus at about 9 am to head out to Cork for a media visit. We went to RedFM, a radio station geared towards younger audiences aged 15-34. It was really interesting because we got to talk to someone from the advertising end as well as the program manager. We also talked to the woman who handles the Irish language end of the station's programs. The regulations and rules they have in Ireland seem more strict than in the US. Because their liscense is for a specific age group, they can't advertise or play any music that is not specified for that group. We also got free pens out of the deal.

After the visit at the radio station, we got back on the bus to go to BLARNEY CASTLE! I've been waiting for this day the entire trip. The grounds the castle is on are beautiful. We stood in line up a very narrow, very steep, very winding stone staircase. After what felt like forever, we finally mae it to the top. The view was amazing! But when I had to lay down and kiss the Blarney Stone upside-down, I was nervous. I am not the least bit afraid of heights, but seeing grass below you while leaning backwards over a castle wall kind of puts things in perspective. It was an awesome experience, though.

We had some time for lunch and to do some shopping at Blarney Woolen Mills. They had all kinds of the Irish knitted sweaters. I was very tempted to get one, but they are bulky and expensive. I was afraid It wouldnt make it home in my suitcase. I did get a few things though for some family and friends back home.

When we got back, we had a group meeting to carch up on some things. But now, we're on our own. I'll probably go with the girls to go get dinner somewhere soon. Then it's time to work on my articles and my web project. Tomorrow we leave for Killarney, but we are driving through the Ring of Kerry to get there. I'm so excited!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 8: The journey to Cobh

Last night was our last night in Dublin, and this morning, I was packed and ready to go. We all got on the new motorcoach with our new tour guide named Joe. He is awesome, but I still miss Rachel. We drove to the Wicklow Mountains. It is a national park in Ireland. On top of that, we took the scenic road the entire way to Cobh.

We stopped at Saint Kevin's Monostary in Glendalough. It was BEAUTIFUL there. Joe gave us a quick tour around the grounds and told us some stories about Saint Kevin. The legends say he lived to be 120 years old. And also that he had an amazing way with animals. One story tells of a mother who died in childbirth, so the father brought the baby to Saint Kevin to take care of it. A female deer would come and give her milk to the baby for four days so that it was something to eat.

We ate a quick lunch in Glendalough then headed out on our way again. It took another 4 hours to get to Cobh! We did take a quick bathroom break about halfway through, though. We drove through Tipperary, which is where my family is! And once we got here, we fell in love with the hotel! It is so adorable. The room I'm in has 8 twin beds and a crib (in 3 seperate rooms) and 2 bathrooms. It is me, meagan, maggie, caiti, micky, and kristina all in here. There is also WiFi! So all six of us are currently on the internet right now. However, it is an incredibly terrible connection.

We took a guided walking tour of Cobh with writer Michael Martin. It was about an hour and a hlaf long, and it was really interesting. We learned about the historical signifigance of Cobh and it's harbor. This is where the Titanic set sail for America from. It is also where the survivors of the Lusitania sinking were brought. There is a memorial for each of the ships in the town. It is absolutely beautiful here. We could've spent the entire two weeks here are I would have been happy.

Tomorrow we head to a radio station and to kiss the Blarney Stone. Tonight I need to get settled in my new home for the next two days and catch up on some sleep.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 7: Last day in Dublin

Today was our last day in Dublin and it was a completely free day for us. I slept in late to catch up on sleep from yesterday. After showering, talking to my family and boyfriend for a while, I headed out on my search for duct tape. I became side-tracked when I heard about the names and crests store that my roommates were at. So, I went there and got a print out for my mom. I wanted to get one for my brother and his wife, but they didn't have Strength in the name database.

I then walked around looking for a hardware store or something of the sort. I ended up at Euro2, a store kind of like the dollar tree, only everything is two euros. The closest I found to duct tape was packing tape. It was the only thing I found that was thick enough to patch my suitcase. I haven't tried it yet so I hope it works. I also bought some candy bars to take home and show my boyfriend.

I came back to the apartment to get ready for the show tonight. I went to an Irish music and dance show with Gabby and Erin. It included a really good three course dinner and it was a lot of fun. I really enjoy Irish dancing. I think I always have since my mom and dad went to Lord of the Dance and brought home the tape for me to watch.

Now I am just relaxing and putting off packing everything back up. Tonight is our last night in Dublin and tomorrow we're off to Cobh by motorcoach. I'm really sad that Rachel has to leave us. I hope we can make it okay without her, but even more I hope her dad is okay. (Rachel is from the tour company and planned this trip with us. She's amazing.) We set off at nine tomorrow morning, so I guess I better get started so I can go to sleep.

Day 6: A trip to Belfast

This morning I woke up at 5 am because we had to meet at 6:30 to catch a train to Northern Ireland. The good part about getting up so early was that I was ablr to Skype with my mom! It was only about 9 pm in Arizona, so she was going to bed and I was just getting up. So we walked to the train station to catch the train to Belfast.

I had never been on a train before, but it was pretty neat. It made me excited to leave Dublin and see more of the country and hills and farms. Once we got off the train though, our day never stopped. We did a "black taxi tour" but in out tour bus with one of the guides. Belfast is kind of scary. He said there is 10 percent of the violence that was happening a few year ago. But the police stations are still extremely fortified, a lot of windows are bulletproof glass with steel cages around them, and the Peace Wall is still up. The Peace Wall is a HUGE 16 foot (i think that's waht he said) wall seperating the Catholic neighborhoods and the Protestant Neighborhoods. There are murals all over the sides of building that say "Prepared for peace, ready for war" and that have pictures of men dressed in army garb pointing guns out at the world.

For lunch we went to the shipyards where the Titanic was built. It was really cool, and we ate at the cafe they have there. Afterwards we went to the Belfast Telegraph and talked to the director of digital media. His job is to create the layout of the paper to be printed as well as create the website. He told us that everyone in Northern Ireland has broadband internet and they use is often. It is such a contrast between the visits we've had so far.

We went to a group dinner at the Morning Star. It was delicious! I ate so much food. But it was fun and the least rushed activity of the day. After we ate, it was back on the run to find the train station so we didn't miss our train. It left at 8:10 and I slept most of the way back. It didn't make a difference though, I was still exhausted when we got back to the apartment. Tomorrow is our free day, and as of right now, I have no plans. I need to find someone to talk to about my web project, but that has not gone very well so far.